Once by Morris Gleitzman

Once was about a Jewish boy named Felix. Once takes place during the 1940′s, when Hitler and the Nazi’s are in power. Felix’s parents, before the war started, put Felix in an orphanage. Knowing his parents are alive, Felix leaves the orphanage and “runs away” to home. But why are the Nazi’s burning books? Why do they hate him? Why did they force him into a work camp?

I liked the beginning of this book. It was filled with action. However, I didn’t like the way it ended. It just suddenly ended, and it didn’t tell you what happened to him.
—K.J. (age 13)

The Quarter Pie Window

Emma Anderson was orphaned at the age of 14, and now, 6 months later, is on her way to live with her strict and serious aunt, who she barely knows. Emma suspects that some foul play is involved in the selling of her family’s farm, but she cannot prove it. So for the time being, she must submit to her aunt’s wishes. She and her younger brother John find themselves not so much cared for as working for their aunt in her hotel. As Emma tries to help the guests in the hotel with various problems, she is made to take on the duties of a chambermaid. This is not at all what she expected.

While not exactly fascinating or entirely original, this novel was enjoyable. It is a sequel to “The Tinderbox”, which I did not read. I can attest to the fact that this book is very entertaining on it’s own, but I will be looking for the other books by Marianne Brandis soon.


Clover is a ten-year-old girl living in the 1980′s, in a place where racial prejudice still exists. Her widowed father remarries, only to be killed in a terrible accident hours later. Clover is left with her new stepmother, a white woman she barely knows. “Clover” is the story of how they get to know each other, and how Sarah Kate (the stepmother) struggles to be accepted by the predominately black community.

It is a very nice story, and Dori Sanders does a really good job of telling it from Clover’s point of view. I had a bit of trouble following the confusion in Clover’s thoughts, as she described a current event and then suddenly had a flashback, without changing tense. But overall, I really enjoyed this book.

Child of Dandelions

Dandelions-weeds. Something unwanted, something to be uprooted. The year is 1972, and this is exactly how Africans in Uganda view anyone with Indian blood. They feel they have been oppressed by the Indians for too long, and it’s time to get their land back. Then the president, Idi Amin, has a dream: God wants him to ‘weed’ Uganda. So he does. He gives the Indians 90 days to get out. Any that remain after the countdown will be sent to concentration camps, or worse. Thus begins a period of panic, terror, and sorrow, and thus begins “Child of Dandelions”, a novel by Shenaaz Nanji. Sabine, a fifteen year old Indo-African girl, witnesses and experiences how bitterness and prejudice damage families and relationships. Throughout the countdown her situation and those of Indians around her become worse and worse. She must discover if she really has courage, if she is her father’s “brave boy”, and if her friendships can survive tough trials.

The subject matter is interesting, but the writing style makes the story captivating. Often using Indian and African words, Nanji captures the culture, and brings it all alive. Through Sabine, she shows that it is not necessary to be disrespectful, reckless, and disobedient to be a real teen, and through her writing style proves that you don’t need to add foul language or sexual content to hold a teenager’s attention. “Child of Dandelions” is a great book that I will be recommending to many.

Black Duck By: Janet Taylor Lisle

Black Duck is a great mystery and intense book. One second it is peaceful and the next… someone is getting kidnapped. Jeddy and Ruben were once best friends, but then that friendship was split by a dead body washed up on the beach. Jeddy’s dad was a policeman and was trying to figure out this case. Every piece of evidence all traced back to the Black Duck. The Black Duck was a big speed boat that would always out run the Coast Guard. The Duck smuggled thousands upon thousands of cases of illegal liquor into the United States. Ruben gets into the action and is now telling his unpredictable story to the public in this science-fiction book.

The Astonishing Tale of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation

This book comes in two volumes – The Pox Party and The Kingdom on the Waves.  It is written by M.T. Anderson, but it is actually a compilation of primary source documents from the Revolutionary War.  Most of it comes from the writings of Octavian Nothing, a slave who was raised to think he was a prince.  However, when his master falls into debt and a new man takes over the family business, he loses all his status and “importance.” The rest of the story consists of Octavian’s daring escape and struggle to discover who he really is.  Through it all, he must discover where his loyalties lie as the Patriots rise up and the British fight to subdue them.  It is a really intriguing story, and even though it is really long, it’s worth it.  Octavian really develops a sense of identity, but that is greatly affected by the people he interacts with, as he serves both the Patriots and the British legion of Africans led by Gov. Dunmore of Virginia.  I would definitely recommend these books, but they take a while to read, so don’t give up!

The Starplace by Vicki Grove

This book is about two best friends who can’t be together because of intergration. It is humorous at times, sad at others but is a really, really good book. It is a great example of how life isn’t  always fair. The main charactors are Frannie and Celeste who live in a strictly racist town called Quiver. It takes place in the early 1960s and is a really good read for anyone who likes the best-selling novel “The Color of Friendship”and “The Skin I’m In”.

—submitted by Hannah N. (age 10, grade 6)

The Valley of Secrets by Charmian Hussey

Stephen is an orphan. He lives with his adoptive parents until he gets a letter saying that his last living relative, his great uncle, had passed away. Stephen inherited his estate along with the Amazon animals, plants and Indians that live there. I liked this book because it was really well written and I felt as if I was following Stephen around during the whole story. I think it might have been better in first person, but third person was cool too.
—submitted by Veronica P. (age 12, grade 8 )

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Does My Shirts is about “Moose” a 13 year old boy who had just moved to Alcatraz. Moose is here NOT because he did anything wrong, but because his dad works as a guard. There is also one more reason, Natalie. Natalie is Moose’s “younger” sister. She goes to special schools such as the one in Alcatraz. This book was great because it covered light, and heavy problems/issues. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone I know.
—submitted by Erin R. (age 12, grade 8 )

The Great Brain is Back by John D. Fitzgerald

When Tom turns 13, everything changes. He now works with Papa running the Advocate. Pretty Polly put a spell on him. But does that mean he stopped pulling pranks? NO.
—submitted by Katriina J. (age 11, grade 7)
Series: # 8